Thursday, 26 January 2017


I have long been dissatisfied by most allegedly "science fiction" movies and TV shows.  I've seen very little of either real science or at least semi-plausible speculative advances of science in them.  And I have to say that most of them are also unsatisfactory when it comes to extrapolating possible changes, advances, retrogressions, etc., in both human and non human societies in the future.  And that reminds me of how unconvincing I've seen speculative depictions of what non human alien races LOOK like.

Poul Anderson was and is one of the few science fiction writers who have really pleased and satisfied me as regards the points I listed in the prior paragraph.  Even when he goes beyond what we currently know in the sciences, he is careful to explain how things like a FTL drive MIGHT work (and SOME scientists don't totally dismiss FTL as a possibility).  Anderson is also very convincing in showing how human societies of the future might arise and work.  And I especially admire the skill and care in how he worked out ways non human intelligent races might evolve, live, think, organize themselves into societies, etc.

I have long wished some adventurous movie producer or director would take a chance and try filming versions of some of Anderson's stories and novels. It's my view that cinematic versions of his Nicholas van Rijn and Dominic Flandry tales would be good candidates for such an effort.  I have thought that a good choice for such an experiment would be a filmed version of Anderson's "The Game Of Glory."  Because that story might need only minimal special effects and could be filmed mostly in, say, the Bahamas Islands.  I think a film like that would be a good way for a producer/director to gain experience in how to satisfactorily produce cinematic versions of some of Anderson's stories.

Here I digress a bit.  Many of the STAR WARS movies famously begins with a textual crawl beginning with the words "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..."  The purpose of the textual crawl is to impart to viewers some background information and help set the mood desired for watching the movies.  It's my belief that any filmed versions of the Nicholas van Rijn or Dominic Flandry stories should begin with a similar textual crawl.  AND, a text that could be used for introducing any Flandry movies already exists.  I have a first edition hardback  copy of Anderson's collection FLANDRY OF TERRA (Chilton Books: 1965).  The jacket cover text for this edition would, with some editing, make a very good textual crawl for these hypothetical Flandry movies.  The text below was copied from the book jacket.
Captain Sir Dominic Flandry of Terra's Imperial Naval Intelligence Corps returns, dashing and debonair as ever, for more adventures among the stars

Long before Flandry was born, mankind had spread widely through the galaxy.  Humans had colonized many strange planets.  Then came a Time of Troubles out of which eventually arose the Terran Empire, rich and peaceful.  But some of those ancient colonies had been lost, and in these lost colonies, civilization had gone its own curious ways.

Now the Empire has grown old.  It wants nothing but peace in which to enjoy the pleasures of its wealth.  No longer are the barbarians and the rival, non-human powers held at bay.  Hungrily, they press inward.  Only a few devoted men risk their lives to stop the march against mankind.

Captain Flandry is one of these.  Spying, intriguing, fighting--joking, drinking, wenching--he goes from world to world on his lonely missions.
The text quoted above was a general summary--next came material specifically relating to the stories in FLANDRY OF TERRA.  The material I'll be quoting should be included after the text quoted above for the movies made for different stories.  For Nyanza, the planet seen in "The Game Of Glory," the book jacket said: "One such involves a world of ocean, settled by humans of African descent long before.  Somewhere, hidden from prying eyes, is an enemy agent--and what an agent!  He has to be found, and found at once, all one hundred feet of him!"

The text I'll be quoting here should be placed after the indented material I quoted above for any filmed versions of "A Message In Secret":  "Next, rumors reach Flandry of suspicious goings on through the chilly plains and polar snows of Altai, the lost ice world settled by clans of Mongols.  He suspects that Merseia, Terra's great enemy, is somehow involved, and goes there to see for himself.  At first the Kha Khan receives him hospitably, even sending him a girl from the royal harem.  But this girl blurts out the truth, that Merseian agents are indeed at work to turn Altai into a military base.  Flandry has to escape the palace to save his life and hers.  Then he has to warn Terra--and he is cut off in the wilderness, with no way to get at a spaceship. The best of fighting men can accomplish only so much; after that, he must depend on his own wits."  And I especially admired the ingenious way Flandry found for getting a message sent to the Empire!

This is what the book jacket said about the last story in FLANDRY OF TERRA, "The Plague Of Masters": "Unan Besar is almost the opposite of Altai.  This is a warm, rainy planet whose civilization has developed from a Malayan stock.  It looks peaceful, backward, even idyllic.  But Flandry soon finds it is under a ruthless scientific tyranny.  And almost at once, the agents of that government are out to kill him.  He takes refuge in the slums, is captured by Kemul the mugger, and brought before beautiful, catlike Luang.  His first need is a supply of those pills without which men soon die in the poisonous atmosphere of Unan Besar.  After that he must get off the planet and break the stranglehold of its government.  But Luang shows no particular interest in helping him."

I think the text about Unan Besar should be edited before being placed at the beginning of any filmed version of "The Plague Of Masters."  First, I would eliminate as unnecessary the mention of Altai.  Second, I think too much is given away about the plot of the story with the mention of how a special medicine is needed for human beings to continue living on Unan Besar.

IF done well I think any filmed versions of stories featuring Nicholas van Rijn and Dominic Flandry would be better, more convincing, than the STAR WARS or STAR TREK shows and movies.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Filming The Earth Book II

Continuing from here.

"...because of its nearness to populous Gray, our choth receives more humans into membership than most." (p. 1)

Pictures of Gray, then of winged Ythrians and human beings with gravbelts flying together. The words and the pictures begin to explain "choth."

" remembered for writing The Sky Book Of Stormgate."

The accompanying visuals should hint at the contents of the Sky Book, which is a volume that we never read or, in cinematic terms, a film that we never see.

"In this, as you well know, she traced and described the whole history of our choth. Of the ancestors upon Ythri; of the founders here upon Avalon; of the descendants and their doings unto her own years..." (pp. 1-2)

Scenes on two planets, showing the differences between their environments.

"God stooped upon her before she could begin the next chronicle." (p. 2)

"'In the end, God the Hunter strikes every being and everything which beings have made. Upon your way of life I see His shadow.'" (p. 407)

"...that race with which ours is to share this world until God the Hunter descends upon both." (p. 434)

God the Hunter should have a distinctive musical theme accompanied by a darkening of the scenery.

"Then came the Terran War..." (p. 2)

We should see scenes that we recognize from the dramatization of The People Of The Wind.

"...and, when it had passed by, ruined landscapes lay underneath skies gone strange."

This should be easy enough to visualize.

"Hloch, who had served in space, afterward found himself upon Imperial planets, member of a merchant crew..."

We should recognize planets from other parts of the Technic History.

"...Hloch had wearied of the void and returned to the winds."

A visual of the void, then of winds.

"This is the tale as Terrans, who walk the earth."

Intersecting streets; many human beings walking purposefully; birds' eye/Ythrians' eye view.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Filming The Earth Book Of Stormgate

A thought can move through my mind for a very long time before I realize that I should post about it. For links to other "filming" posts, see here.

As an introduction to a film based on Poul Anderson's The Earth Book Of Stormgate (New York, 1978), I think that a narrator should read in its entirety Hloch's Introduction, pp. 1-2, beginning:

"To those who read, good flight."

We should see Ythrians flying on the horizon but they should as yet be too far away for us to differentiate them from large birds.

"It is Hloch of the Stormgate Choth who writes, on the peak of Mount Anrovil in the Weathermother."

The audience should understand that terms like "Choth" will be explained later. For now, it is sufficient to pick up some idea of their meaning from context. We should see churning clouds above a large mountain.

"His Wyvan, Tariat son of Lythran and Blawsa, has asked this. Weak though his grip upon the matter be, bloodpride requires he undertake this."

Again, "Wyvan" and "bloodpride" will be explained later. "Bloodpride" is largely self-explanatory. We might see two Ythrians, Tariat and Hloch, in conversation.

"Judge, O people. The father of Hloch was Ferannian and the mother was Rennhi. They held the country around Spearhead Lake."

We see an Ythrian dwelling beside a lake with Ythrians circling overhead.

"He was an engineer who was often in Gray [and here], Centauri, and other towns, dealing with humans."

For the first time we see human beings in a town accompanied by Ythrians.

And at the end:

"Now The Earth Book of Stormgate is ended. From my tower I see the great white sweep of the snows upon Mount Anrovil. I feel the air blow in and caress my feathers. Yonder sky is calling. I will go.
"Fair winds forever." (p. 434)

We should see what Hloch sees and hear an eagle's wings.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Quantum Time

Quantum Mechanics
What is it?
Can subatomic indeterminacy coexist with macrocosmic determinism? (I think so: see here.)

How many are there?
Is time a fourth dimension?

How do quanta and dimensions interact?
(i) In Poul Anderson's Time Patrol series, time travel requires 4N dimensions and causality violation is described as quantum indeterminacy on the macroscopic level. Thus, time travel links multiple dimensions to macroscopic indeterminacy.

(ii) "The attempts thus far to reconcile the quantum microcosm with the classic macrocosm have led to such mind-wrenching extravagances as string theory, notions that require extra dimensions, ranging between ten and twenty-six, before the mathematics will make sense."
-Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016), pp. 781-782.

Thus, string theory synthesis of quantum mechanics with classical physics requires additional dimensions - although not as many as 4N of them!

Quantum Mechanics In Science And Fiction

I seek to draw together threads from three blogs. See:

A Sea Of Virtual Particles
Reality Is Not What It Seems

Poul Anderson writes sf.
Alan Moore writes a novel in which an artist considers the philosophy of science.
Carlo Rovelli tells us the science.

Onward, Earthlings.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Pun And Gun

"Both guards bent close to the lying man."
-Poul Anderson, "Say It With Flowers" IN Anderson, Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984), pp. 103-125 AT p. 118.

"...lying..." turns out to have been a pun. Flowers, a prisoner, has faked an illness to get a drop on his guards. Like moments of realization, "hero punches guard and grabs gun" is a standard Anderson plot maneuver. But it has to be presented plausibly and Anderson manages that here.

The war for asteroid independence has begun before this story starts and ends before it does. This is an economically written future history. Flowers winds up not only meeting but even employing the North American Intelligence officer who had interrogated him.

Interlude 3 confirms that there were Soviet asteroid colonies. Thus, the Soviet Union lasted much longer in the Flying Mountains timeline than it did in ours. Check out its parallel histories in James Blish's Cities In Flight and in Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium History.

"Say It With Flowers"

Can anyone see what is happening here?

The third tale of the flying mountains is called "Say it with Flowers";

it is about Lieutenant Robert Flowers, Space Force of the Asterite Republic, during the war for asteroid independence;

Flowers is tattooed with a comet that is also a flag, a dancing naked woman and, as a recent addition, a design of roses and lilies;

on a recent drinking spree, Flowers blacked out, does not now understand why he chose the flowers tattoo and intends to have it removed;

Flowers in his courier boat is captured by an enemy cruiser;

enemy Intelligence is unable to decipher Flower's dispatches;

however, after interrogating him under drugs and brain stimulation, they conclude that he is no one important.

The clue is in the title.

Friday, 20 January 2017


In Poul Anderson's Tales Of The Flying Mountains, asterites discuss the newly elected Social Justice administration in North America.

In Anderson's contribution to Isaac Asimov's Robots series, two men out in space discuss Stephen Byerley (see here) who has recently been elected on Earth.

In 2017, people around Earth discuss the newly elected President of the United States.

When I started reading science fiction, including works by Poul Anderson, in the 1960s, all three of these statements would equally have been sf.

Next year will be 2018. Year 2018 was an alternative title of Volume I of James Blish's Cities In Flight Tetralogy which begins with politics in Washington.

It is good to read about the future, then to live it.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

What Is A Weapon? II

An asterite defies the North American Space Navy:

"'The station hasn't got any armament, but trust the human race to juryrig that. We commandeered the scoopships belonging to this vessel and loaded them with Jovian gas at maximum pressure. If your missile detonates, they'll dive on you.'"
-Poul Anderson, "The Rogue" IN Anderson, Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984), pp. 45-100 AT p. 95.

See What Is A Weapon?

This adaptation of peaceful technology for warfare is another conceptual parallel between Anderson's Tales Of the Flying Mountains and Larry Niven's Tales of Known Space.

Also relevant is a very perceptive comment by an Alan Moore character:

As Alan Moore’s extraterrestrial character, Zhcchz (“Skizz”), says:

“You…refuse to…understand. When technology…has reached…a certain level…weapons…are redundant. When you already have…all that you need, then…why fight? We…have devices…that you would call weapons. To us…they…are tools.”
-copied from here.
We do not fight for the air that we breathe and I am confident that we will not fight for anything when technology has been used to make everyone rich.

Pivotal Characters

Starting to post about "Pivotal Characters," I find that I have already posted about "Important People"! My point is that a future history is about future historical events - to quote Wells, "Things To Come" - and about the future of humanity - to quote Stapledon, "Last and First Men." Thus, a series just about a single individual like Nicholas van Rijn or Dominic Flandry, is not a future history. However, particular installments of a future history series feature individual characters and early installments might feature some characters whose role is pivotal for the subsequent history. We can look for such characters although we will not necessarily find them in every case. With an eye to that earlier post but also making some additions or alterations, we find:

de Windt wrote Social Nucleation.

Harriman "sold the Moon."

I think that we were told the name of the founder of US Robots?

Rullman invented pantropy.
Wagoner secretly oversaw the development of the spindizzy and the antiagathics.
Haertel invented the Haertel overdrive.
Wald invented the Dirac transmitter.

Valti wrote the first psychotechnic equations.
Emett discovered gyrogravitics.
Anson Guthrie founds Fireball.
Guthrie's granddaughter is the "Mother of the Moon." See here.